(Published on the Philly Soccer Page on Aug. 28, 2010.)
The winless streak is over.
Union midfielder Justin Mapp scored the winner in stoppage time and assisted on a Jack McInerney goal to lead Philadelphia Union to a 2-1 road victory over a 10-man New England Revolution team.
The Union went up a man when New England defender Cory Gibbs was red carded in the 4oth minute for a high and late tackle on Union midfielder Eduardo Coudet. But they couldn’t light the scoreboard until they fully remade their lineup with a third attacking sub, bringing in Roger Torres, Justin Mapp and Jack McInerney in place of Coudet, Kyle Nakazawa and Stefani Miglioranzi, respectively. The Union then scored twice in 10 minutes to flip the score and seal the end to their six-game winless streak. It was just their second road win of the year.
New England outshot the Union 14-10 and put five shots on goal to the Union’s 3, but the Union’s late flurry behind an attacking lineup flipped the scorecard and secured a huge win for the expansion club.
Here’s what we can take away from the game.
- That’s the lineup we want to see.
The lineup that ended the game should be the 2011 opening day lineup, save for the addition of Shea Salinas for one of the fullbacks. Mapp and Le Toux on the wings. Torres in a central playmaking role. Jacobson at holding midfielder. McInerney up front with Mwanga.
The Union played 37 minutes a man up without much of an attack, but it wasn’t until Union Jack came in for Miglioranzi in the 77th minute that the lineup was fully remade for attacking. We only got this lineup for 15 minutes, but the results were clear: two goals, regular attacking, lots of excitement, and a win. McInerney is always extraordinarily active and creative when he gets in the game. Mapp is one of the few Union players willing and able to take on opponents off the dribble. Torres has that rare creativity needed to excel in a playmaking role. Meanwhile, any time Le Toux is put out on the wing, it gives the team more width and more room for the forwards to operate.
We may not see this lineup regularly throughout the rest of the season, because if McInerney, Mwanga, and Amobi Okugo spend too much time on the field, the Union will have to protect them in the upcoming expansion draft. Because they are Generation Adidas players, they’re likely to be exempt, as was done in the past. But if they play too many minutes, they could lose that status. (More on this later in the week.)
- Say goodbye to the 4-2-2-2.
The Union’s 4-4-2 has in recent weeks looked more like a 4-2-2-2, as Coudet and Miglioranzi played deep-lying roles that rarely pushed up.
But once Torres came into the game in his natural center midfield role, he filled the hole the Union have been missing for weeks, that of a center attacking midfielder. We said after the D.C. United game that the Union needed someone in that CAM role that Branko Boskovic is filling for United. It’s always been clear Torres could be that guy, but he hasn’t been given much opportunity there.
Which brings us to …
- It makes a world of difference to put players in their natural positions, doesn’t it?
Torres is a central playmaker. Mapp is a winger. So too probably is Le Toux, in the end. Jacobson is a holding midfielder, not a winger. Amazing what happens when you actually play guys in their natural positions. Yes, we know that in the first season, experimentation is the way to go to see what you can do. (Salinas was a revelation at right back, for example.) But there comes a point at which you also have to recognize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Miglioranzi has done the Union a service this year as a defensive stalwart, but next week, we really need to give Jacobson more than 15 minutes at his natural holding midfield position. He offers a presence moving forward that Miglioranzi doesn’t. Yes, his shot on goal went way high, but the fact that he was even in the box to take it was something that Miglioranzi hasn’t done all season.
Now, if only we knew what to do with Michael Orozco Fiscal …
- Go ABC!
Last week, ABC moved the game to its Live Well network, and some people couldn’t catch the game apparently. They kept it on ABC tonight. Nice. It’s a good thing too, because some of our readers were just a tad pissed off about the move last week.
- The malaise is gone. The excitement is back.
That was a damn fun team to watch in those last 15 minutes. All it takes is a win to turn things around not just for a team, but for fans. Admit it. You were down on the Union. They were miserable to watch last week. The winless streak had taken the new car shine off the team. Philly fans are Philly fans. They get down and miserable really easy. (See McNabb, Donovan.) But no one expected them to win the league this year. What we expect is a competitive, fun team that plays to win. For 15 minutes Saturday night, we got that, and it was enough.
Now if we can just get it for 90 next Saturday against a very hot Kansas City team.
GK Chris Seitz: 5
When challenged, he didn’t make the stop. Again, it’s hard to blame him for a beautiful Ilija Stolica hustle goal. Any time a corner kick hits the ground in the box with no one touching it, that falls on the outfield players. But still, no clean sheet. Not seriously challenged much the rest of the game by a 10-man New England team.
LB Jordan Harvey: 5
If the rest of the league hasn’t figured out Harvey by now, then they’re not watching tape, because everyone else knows him. He pushed up field, then passes back short to a teammate. He doesn’t send in many crosses (although it was his short cross to Mapp that started the sequence on the first goal). He hustles on defense and plays it better than most left backs in the league, and he’s a very good natural athlete. This is what he is. Accept it.
CB Juan Diego Gonzalez: 6
Gonzalez is the steadiest partner Califf has had yet. He’s never spectacular, but he also doesn’t make too many mistakes (outside of a bizarre sequence last week against D.C. United). For most of the game, he was in the right place at the right time — even on the goal, though he couldn’t stop it. He rarely fouls, something very clear in Saturday’s game when he was called for a foul he clearly didn’t commit and played so cleanly on Stolica’s dive in the box that Stolica could’ve gotten booked himself.
CB Danny Califf: 6
Califf nearly gifted the Revolution with a goal when his headed clearance went way short, and Sainey Nyassi blasted a wicket shot off the right post in return. Otherwise, decent game for the captain, strong in the air and cleaning up for others’ mistakes entirely too often, as usual.
RB Michael Orozco Fiscal: 4
If anyone gets blame for the New England goal, Orozco has to get most of it. Marko Perovic’s corner kick hit the ground because Orozco was slow to react to it and whiffed on his clearance attempt. That’s what left it for Shalrie Joseph, who was stopped by Califf, only to see Stolica send in the rebound. After starting for San Luis in Mexico’s first division and capping for the U.S. national team, it’s amazing to see that Orozco is looking like he could be the odd man out on this back line if Shea Salinas plays back there once he returns from injury.
LM Andrew Jacobson: 5
Jacobson had little impact while playing on the wing, but when moved back to holding midfield after Miglioranzi and Coudet left the game, we saw him at his natural position for 15 minutes. He played solid in possession there, filled the center on defense, and pushed up in a way that Migs and Chacho haven’t in their time with the Union. That said, his point blank shot in front of the goal needs to go below the crossbar, not above it.
RM Kyle Nakazawa: 4
Once again, Nakazawa offered little in the field of play but was solid on free kicks. He’s not ready yet, which is a shame, because no one else is ready to do anything good on free kicks.
CM Stefani Miglioranzi: 5
Migs played a solid defensive game and set up a nice Le Toux run with a pretty pass. That said, he anchors the midfield in two ways, one of which you want — solid defense — and one that you don’t — his failure to push the midfield on offense that holds the team back. He and Coudet go to the same spots on the field too often, something seen clearly in a first half exchange in which Migs gave Coudet a short pass in poor position, and Coudet was forced under pressure to give it right back, at which point Migs lost the ball. As good a defensive midfielder as Miglioranzi is, the presence of him and Coudet in the same lineup is holding back the Union attack, something shown clearly in the game’s final 15 minutes.
CM Eduardo Coudet: 5
Coudet makes few mistakes and holds the ball well. He’s a smart player. But see comments on Miglioranzi. Chances are one of them is gone next season.
ST Sebastien Le Toux: 7
Le Toux made some nice runs but was getting very little help from the midfield. Once he dropped back to midfield, he was able to help change that. Assisted on Mapp’s goal with a perfect, soft drop pass that Mapp slotted home.
ST Danny Mwanga: 4
Got no service, and the result was he had little impact on the game.
Roger Torres: 7
Torres initiated the beginning of the game’s change upon replacing Coudet in the 46th minute. Was consistently active, sent some creative loft passes in, and did something few other Union center midfielders do by being active with the ball in the center attacking third. Was at his best once paired with two true outside midfielders in Mapp and Le Toux.
Justin Mapp: 9
Did he make a mistake all game? He came in the 65th minute and furthered the change on the Union’s character by threatening New England with the ball at his feet. His lofted pass to Union Jack was a thing of beauty. His goal was slotted home perfectly, and what can’t be underestimated is he filled a space at the center of the 18 that often stays empty when the Union forwards get the ball up front. The man of the match.
Jack McInerney: 8
Union Jack came in, and the transition was complete. The Union had gone from a stilted, uncreative team to one with all sorts of ideas. His finish was perfect, a subtly difficult turn and one-touch shot executed exactly the way it should be. McInerney is, along with Salinas, the most daring player on this team, and while he may not crack the lineup as a regular starter until next season due to expansion draft concerns, if he’s not starting on opening day next season, there better be a damn good reason why.